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Thomas – Internship Blog Post 2022

What are you studying?

I am studying for a BSc in Computer Science at the University of Edinburgh. I am about to enter my third year, where I will be studying abroad at the University of California.

Tell us a bit about the project you have been working on this summer?

My project aims to take data collected from the NASA LVIS airborne LiDAR to study patterns of canopy cover in tropical forests. Through investigating these patterns, I hope to have answered two questions. My findings relating to the first question “What patch sizes do the very highest canopy covers occur in?” have implications for the design of a future LiDAR satellite instrument proposed by GLAMIS (Global LiDAR Altimetry Mission). I hope to formalise my findings relating to the second question “What maximum leaf area can a tropical rainforest support?” in an academic paper, with the aim of publishing it at the end of the year.

What new skills have you learned while doing this internship?

I learned many new skills while undertaking this internship – skills that are essentially either technical or transferable. On the technical side I learned a great deal about the Linux operating system and vastly improved my proficiency in python. I was also fortunate enough to audit two postgraduate courses – “Active Remote Sensing: Radar and LiDAR” and “Object Orientated Software Engineering: Spatial Algorithms”. Through studying these courses, I learned about LiDAR, novel programming approaches, and the use of QGIS (an application to analyse geospatial data). I was also able to develop several somewhat less tangible skills, such as problem solving, communication, and time management. The project was relatively independent, and at times, I found it quite challenging to keep to task when trying to solve problems – I overcame this by communicating effectively with my supervisor and being disciplined with how I managed my time.

How have you found working with your research team?

I found working with my supervisor Steve and several of his colleagues to be incredibly rewarding. Steve was very generous with his time – he was always attentive to my many questions and was very patient when there were aspects of the project that I did not understand. I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to work alongside someone such as Steve – at times, it was very inspiring.

What has been the highlight of the internship for you?

The highlight of the internship was the chance to present some of my initial findings to the other REP interns in Edinburgh and Leeds – I really enjoyed meeting the other interns and seeing what they had to present.

How has doing this internship changed your plans or thoughts about your future career?

I think that this placement has led me to appreciate how challenging independent research projects can be, but also that at some point in the future I would like to take the chance to undertake one, or perhaps to at least continue to study at postgraduate level.